LeBron James slams league as injuries pile up in playoffs

As more and more injuries pile up throughout the playoffs — the latest coming in the form of a feared ACL injury for Kawhi Leonard — LeBron James sounded off on the league’s condensed schedule this season on Twitter on Wednesday.

James said that the increase in injuries players are facing aren’t just “part of the game,” but rather due to lack of rest.

As for the financial side of the argument, something that was significantly hurt last season when the NBA had to move into a bubble, James isn’t having it.

The 2020-21 season kicked off on December 22, just 72 days after the Los Angeles Lakers won last season’s NBA Finals at Walt Disney World. That officially made it the shortest offseason in league history, beating the previous record by a whopping 55 days.

It also was the shortest offseason among the four major men’s professional sports leagues in the United States, surpassing three previous NHL records.

When that was announced, James was not happy.

The NBA will revert back to a traditional mid-October start next season. The last possible date for an NBA Finals game this season is July 22, just one day before the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics are set to kick off.

Should a game be played that day, that would leave roughly three months between the end of the season and the start of next season. While that is longer than the previous offseason, it will still be shorter than a traditional offseason — even more so for those players competing for Team USA or others in Japan.

The league responded in a statement later on Wednesday night. 

“Injury rates were virtually the same this season as they were during 2019-20 while starter-level and All-Star players missed games due to injury at similar rates last seasons,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement, via The New York Times’ Marc Stein.

“While injuries are an unfortunate reality of our game, we recognize the enormous sacrifices NBA players and teams have made to play through this pandemic.”

Were injuries actually up this season?

Statistically, yes.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the average number of players sidelined per game due to injury — not due to any COVID-19 protocol issues or rest — was 5.1. That is the highest that figure has ever been since it started being tracked back in the 2009-10 season. The last previous record was 4.8, which means that injuries were up across the board by about 5%.

It’s worse for the league’s top players, too.

Per ESPN, this season’s All-Stars missed 19% of games, which is the highest percentage in a single season in league history. On average, All-Stars missed 13.7 regular-season games each.

Though every injury and every player is different, there’s no denying that players were more injury-prone this season.

Several league stars are now sidelined in the postseason, too. Leonard, the Clippers said Wednesday, may have suffered an ACL injury and is now out indefinitely. Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley will miss Game 5 of their series with the Clippers after suffering a setback with his hamstring injury. Kyrie Irving, the Nets announced Wednesday, will miss their Game 6 matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks due to an ankle injury. His teammate James Harden returned from a hamstring injury of his own on Tuesday night, but struggled severely. 

Joel Embiid has also missed playoff time with the Philadelphia 76ers due to a small meniscus tear, Lakers star Anthony Davis missed a game and significant parts of others with a groin injury, and Donovan Mitchell missed a game with an ankle injury for the Jazz.

Though it’s not an injury, Suns star Chris Paul entered COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday morning, too. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to return.

This, James said, is exactly what he was warning about — and prompted him to apologize to fans who should be “seeing all your fave guys right now.”

James then ended his rant with a simple message to Leonard.

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